"To me this is like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,
never to rebuke you again." — Isaiah 54:9
The Torah portion for this week is Noach, from the name of the main character, Noah. It is from Genesis 6:9 –11:32, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:1–55:5.
The book of Isaiah makes a reference to the times of Noah. The prophet wrote, "To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth." This is clearly a reference to the flood that destroyed the world during Noah's time. But why does God call the flood "the waters of Noah?" Noah made the ark, but only God can bring the rain.
The Jewish sages explain that the waters belonged to Noah because, in a way, he was responsible for bringing them. But how can that be? Didn't the Scripture already tell us that Noah was righteous and blameless back in Genesis 9? How can we blame Noah for the flood when it was the people around him who were evil?
Jewish tradition teaches that God would have saved the world had there been just 10 righteous people in it. Noah was one, his three sons made four, and all their wives made eight. God would have been lenient and counted Himself as another righteous being who inhabited the Earth, bringing the total to nine righteous individuals. All Noah had to do was bring just one person to God, and the entire world would have been saved!
Do you know how many years it took Noah to build that gigantic ark? 120 years! Do you know why? Because God was hoping that in all those years someone would walk by and say, "Hey Noah! What in the world are you doing with all of that wood?" And Noah would have lit up with love and passion and say, "Let me tell you all about God and why He told me to make this boat . . . " God was hoping that in all those years Noah could turn just one heart toward Him!
But that wasn't Noah's way. Noah was righteous, but he wasn't right. He worried about his relationship with God, but he ignored the people around him. Noah could have prevented the flood and that is why he is blamed.
My friends, the lesson we learn from this is that we are our brothers' keepers. We are all responsible for the fate of the world. Like Edmund Burke said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." We can be upright and perfect when it comes to our relationship with God, but if we ignore the rest of humanity, we are equally responsible for the evil that goes on.
Our job is to reach out to those who are far from God with love and warmth. What might we do to accomplish that today?
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President